I met Dr. Shah Faesal after he delivered a speech to the scores of people in his home town Kupwara. His physical appearance had not changed much since I last met him— the only change, I noticed though, was that he looked younger and more confident. It was back in 2014 when he had come along with AG Mir (then IGP Kashmir) and other bureaucrats to enlighten the civil services aspirants of our college about the examination and its glory. He had seated himself in the chair, with the air of enlightenment, wearing the glasses, which
Give him his signature look. As I remember, he asked one of the students in the audience, who had been thinking about preparing Urdu as one of his optional subjects, ‘ Who wrote Deewan-e-Ghalib?’ to which the poor guy replied, ‘ I don’t know sir!’ The whole auditorium erupted into the frenzied fits of laughter.
Dr. Shah Faesal, born in Kupwara, besides being an MBBS and having a master’s degree in Urdu, came into the limelight in 2010, after becoming the first ever person from Kashmir to top the
Indian civil services examinations. After serving in the Indian Administrative Services, for about a decade, he resigned from the post and thus signaling his embarkment upon the political career.
[The interview was conducted much earlier. Many developments took place since among which some are of the prime importance. Firstly, the party was launched which
Was named Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement. Secondly, the rumors of Shehlah Rashid Shora joining his party manifested into reality. Moreover, the Right to Self Determination (RSD), which Dr. Shah Faesal had earlier discussed and promised to include it into his party manifesto, has not been included into the same at all]
Q) You topped the exams in 2010, and became an overnight role model for the youth. Now that you have resigned from the service,
should they give up their aspirations of becoming Civil Servants as well? *
You see, currently, the political situation in Kashmir is not robust enough, or I’d instead say there is a constant political vacuum prevalent— governance is in shambles too. The crisis.
The Killings. I just wanted to play a more significant role in the political horizon of the state, and that would be initiated by raising my voice. And it was not possible for me to speak up about all
This is my service. The panacea was to resign.
Nevertheless, it does not mean that the organ of Civil Services is invalid or damaged. It is valuable space. Bureaucracy will always be indispensable even if the political systems keep changing. People should take civil services and contribute to the greater good. There is a history of sufferings that the people of the valley have gone through, which has, in turn, shattered the belief system of youth. They don’t have any confidence in electoral politics. There is a significant chunk of childhood which is alienated from electoral politics. But that does not mean the apocalypse has dawned upon mainstream politics. People are still voting, contesting elections, getting elected, you see! Electoral mainstream is always relevant, and as far as the disillusioned youth is concerned, I have a lot of time to build a relationship with them and all that I can do is make an effort. They are young and energetic and can distinguish between black and white. “ There is a history of sufferings that the people of the valley have gone through, which has, in turn, shattered the belief system of youth. They don’t have any confidence in electoral politics.”
Q) Don’t you think that the sovereigns of J&K are only sovereigns by name? They are just titular heads without power, because you see, Sheikh Abdullah was arrested in 1954, later a similar things happened in the ’ the 80s, in 2008 the chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was helpless, Omar Abdullah while in power speaks on BBC that he is disabled and that he cannot repeal the AFSPA as it was Delhi which wants the act in the state. How can you still believe that tomorrow if you win the election you won’t be a mere puppet?
As long as the situation in the state is warlike, every state-based political establishment is powerless. Conditions need to be improved to make the nation feel empowered. Moreover, once the situations are developed, all these acts will go. A trilateral dialogue between Srinagar, Islamabad and New Delhi would be the smaller step towards a practical solution. But it needs an effort, and
That is what I am hoping to do. That’s what leaders should do—never give up hope.
Q) So you are hopeful about your future? What are your plans?
Yes, I am going to contest elections. But there are some questions like how will I make a party, which elections will I fight, and from which constituencies? I need some time to answer these questions. Meanwhile, I am interacting with people, trying to build relations with them and enlightening myself about the problems which are faced by people from day to day life.
Q) Well, Mr. Faesal, People have been very generous and are showing confidence in you in one day they donated around 4.8 lakh rupees; even one woman gave her ear-rings,
where will all that money go?
We have decided to give 50% of the collected money for the education of pellet victims. Meanwhile, we are in the process of identifying the victims.
Q) Hurriyat conference had invited you to join their party? Why didn’t you enter them? And is Shehla Rashid Shora joining you, there are rumors?
Well, the path Hurriyat leaders are following is, as I feel, wrought with difficulties. There is a lot of struggle. It needs an extra notch of courage. I am choosing a more accessible path for myself. And as you are asking about Shehlah, I am not aware of any such thing. But I am open to welcome all the youngsters who want to join.
Q) You’re speaking about youngsters, I see most of them are disillusioned with the education system here. You have served in the
Department of Education, where do you think lies the bottleneck?
Of course, there are experiences. The most significant experience was the realization that the educational structure here is hardly contributing to the employability of youth. They are graduating from colleges and universities and are drenched in confusions. The entire process of education for them is excruciating. They have degrees, but no jobs. It is partly because of the
Stress is laid on traditional methods of educating and chiefly because infinitesimally little attention is paid on chiseling the creativity of the student. Courses are outdated.
We need to look out for the models formulated by the west, wherein they impart education on modern lines— the emphasis is laid on skill and personality development of a
Student. You see, in Harvard, they have facilitated the environment which is suitable for the exchange of ideas and opinions. There is a friendly relationship between a student and the teacher there. You call your teacher with his first name. Libraries are marvelous and are always updated. You see, their thinking is honest: they learn for the sake of learning, as
Is evident from the fact that they encourage research. On the contrary, our universities are not even amongst the top 100 universities in the world.
Q) And how do you think we can manage to change the scenario?
We have to introspect and innovate. That’s it. We have to equip our institutions with better infrastructure. Design our courses to prepare the student for research. Emphasize on enhancing the creativity of youth. Encourage them to take up sports, literature, music, and art.
Q) Don’t you think the modern capitalist mode of production, especially in the developing countries have made people cynical about art and literature?
I am aware of your passion for literature, especially for the poetry of Iqbal and traditional Kashmiri poetry and music. How do you think you can initiate a change?
Well, yes, Allama Iqbal is a poet of such high stature that everyone from Kashmir will remember at least a couplet from his pen. Coming back to the cynicism of society towards art
And literature, well does not emanate wholly and solely from capitalism. Our art literature and music is deteriorating because of our neglect. We do not patronize them. We haven’t
Built art galleries, and we do not promote folk music. To change this, we have to roll the sleeves and get to work. It has always been a desire, as a lover of literature and music, to revive what
We are losing, to facilitate the spaces where cultural confluence and the exchange of ideas is possible. Because revival and embracing positive influences always go hand in hand.
Q) As we have seen the voice of the students is being muffled from time to time?They do not have anybody who’d listen to them. We have seen the atrocity done on the student voices, you see, what has been happening with Kashmir University Students Union? Do you think it is the time to revive the student politics? And dissent should be given a space too, no!
The first thing I am going to do is to start Student Unions of my party, in all the colleges and universities. And about dissent, I believe in the principles of democracy, freedom of expression, and non-violence, and whatever falls under such laws is acceptable.
“As long as the situation in the state is war-like, every
state-based political establishment is powerless.”